Major investment bank Barclays has reportedly put its cryptocurrency trading project “on ice” amid a prolonged bear market that has dampened interest in the asset class among many investors.
According to a Financial News report, the London-based financial institution shelved the project in September, leading to the departure of Chris Tyrer, the bank’s former head of energy trading who had been in charge of the “digital assets project.”
Among other things, the project involved determining whether cryptocurrency would be more than just a fad, gauging client interest for crypto products, and evaluating what infrastructure the bank would need to invest in to offer related products and services. As recently as August, Tyrer’s LinkedIn profile had stated that he had been “hired to produce a business plan for integrating a digital assets trading desk into Barclays’ marketing business.” However, a Barclays spokesperson disputed that the bank was opening a cryptocurrency trading desk, and Tyrer’s profile was later scrubbed of that statement.
Notably, Barclays has applied to patent a blockchain system that would allow banks or other financial intermediaries to create and issue digital currency units backed by fiat currency custodied in their vaults.
As CCN reported, fellow investment banking giant Goldman Sachs also put the brakes on plans to operate a cryptocurrency trading desk, though, even more significantly, it continues to lay the groundwork to begin offering cryptocurrency custody to clients.
It is not clear why Barclays halted its digital assets project, though it could be related to the cryptocurrency market’s prolonged decline, which began in January and has continued for the 10 months hence, in large part due to the fickle attention spans of retail investors.
Even so, there is evidence that institutions are finally beginning to warm up to the asset class, with at least six major university endowments — Harvard University, Yale University, Dartmouth College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford, and University of North Carolina — having reportedly invested in the ecosystem indirectly, via cryptocurrency investment funds.
Moreover, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the owner-operator of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), has continued to plow ahead with its cryptocurrency plans, which are being carried out through a new subsidiary called Bakkt, in partnership with a variety of high profile names including Microsoft and Starbucks.
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